The management of the 1350 Club, a Long Beach homosexual bathhouse that closed last month rather than comply with tough city requirements aimed at stemming the spread of AIDS, has reopened a similar facility in nearby Wilmington, prompting angry denunciations from a local anti-AIDS crusader.
"What really galls me," said Rob Chapple, who was instrumental in bringing about the city crackdown that led to the original club's demise, "is that they've slipped out of a jurisdiction where they knew they would have difficulty operating."
"It's like cockroaches," Chapple said. "Unless you eradicate (bathhouses), they just . . . run to safer buildings."
Glen Moering, who owns the club and lives in Idaho, could not be reached for comment. But Jay Kohorn, an attorney representing Moering, said the new club--called 1350 West--is in a building that was operated by Moering as a bathhouse until two years ago when it was closed for renovation. "It's a misnomer to say that the club has just moved over," Kohorn said.
The 1350 West club, Kohorn said, reopened "in complete compliance with county (anti-AIDS) guidelines."
County health officials said that, after being contacted by Chapple, they inspected the club--which opened late last Thursday--and expect to have a report sometime this week on whether it complies with county regulations. Among other things, those regulations require that patrons be monitored and that those found engaging in "unsafe" sex practices--defined as oral or anal sex between men--be ejected from the premises. The regulations also require that logs be kept on the number of patrons ejected, that a specific level of illumination be maintained and that signs be prominently displayed warning patrons of the dangers of AIDS.
The regulations also require the removal of structures which "promote or encourage" high-risk sexual activities or prohibit monitors from fully observing all activities on the premises.
The Long Beach club's troubles began when the city interpreted that last requirement--and other guidelines issued by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control--to mean the removal of all doors and beds from the 1350 Club's 50 private rooms.
Moering argued that the club, the only homosexual bathhouse in Long Beach, had already become an important link in the fight against AIDS by distributing educational materials on the disease and its prevention. Rather than deprive patrons of the privacy he considered their constitutional right, he said, he would close the Long Beach bathhouse.
Small Private Rooms
The newly constituted 1350 West club--on Anaheim Street in Wilmington--features small private rooms with beds and doors, as well as a sun deck, showers and larger open rooms with bunk beds. Unlike the earlier club, however, its doors have holes in them large enough to allow monitors to observe any activity. Kohorn said he believes the modification brings the club in line with county health regulations.
"Los Angeles is taking a more sane approach (than Long Beach) it seems," Kohorn said, alluding to the fact that Wilmington is within Los Angeles city limits.
But Chapple, a Long Beach activist who staged a one-man demonstration dressed as the grim reaper in front of the old 1350 Club to draw attention to what he considered its contribution to the spread of AIDS, said he won't be satisfied until 1350 West, like its predecessor, is out of business.
"This time," he said, "I'll chain myself to the front door and stay there until the place closes or until their business runs off, even if it takes placing a cot on the sidewalk."